Did you know that arthritis affects 1 in 5 adults in America?  Did you know that arthritis is our nation’s #1 cause of disability and that two-thirds of arthritis sufferers are working-age adults who are striving to stay employed in the face of pain and functional limitations?

The burden of arthritis is even greater among U.S. military Veterans. About 1 in 3 Veterans has arthritis.  About half of all Veterans with arthritis report limitations in their daily activities because of joint symptoms.

May is Arthritis Awareness Month. It’s a time for us to pay attention to the tremendous impact arthritis has among Veterans, and to the ongoing need for new, better treatments. It’s also a time to focus on what Veterans, their health care providers and their communities can do now to face arthritis as a team.

Researchers are working hard to understand the causes of arthritis and to develop better treatments, and ultimately a cure. In the meantime, arthritis is best managed with a combination of clinical therapies (like medicines) and healthy behaviors. Years of research have shown that physical activity and weight management help to improve pain and function for people with arthritis. But it can be hard to exercise when your joints hurt! So Veterans with arthritis need tools and a team of supporters to help them stay active and manage their arthritis. Here are some tips and key resources for Veterans with arthritis:

  • Take advantage of online and community-based physical-activity and arthritis-management programs. The Arthritis Foundation provides a set of free, online tools that can guide Veterans and others with arthritis in appropriate exercise and healthy eating, identify local arthritis management programs, and connect people with arthritis for mutual support.
  • See a physical therapist. Physical therapy is a recommended part of care for arthritis, but many individuals with arthritis do not receive physical therapy until years after diagnosis, or don’t receive it at all. Physical therapists can help Veterans with arthritis to address functional limitations, develop a home exercise program, and meet needs for knee braces or assistive devices that can help with daily tasks. The Durham VA Healthcare System delivers a group-based physical therapy program that was found in a research study (funded by VA Health Services Research and Development) to be as effective as individual physical therapy, and it has the added benefit of peer support.
  • Try something new! There is emerging evidence that some complementary and integrative health approaches can be helpful for people with arthritis. Yoga, tai chi and massage therapy are three examples of treatments Veterans may want to try.

VA has a very active and diverse portfolio of arthritis research, ranging from laboratory studies of potential new medications for rheumatoid arthritis to studies on complementary and rehabilitative therapies. During Arthritis Awareness Month, take some time to read some highlights of VA arthritis research here.

About the author: Kelli Allen is an associate director of the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care at the Durham VA Health Care System and a faculty member at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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Published on May. 18, 2017

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 411


  1. Edgar W. Casey June 2, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Is the gym/physical therapy facility in the new VA Hospital in New Orleans now open?

    Bad arthritis and pain post L2-L5 lumbar surgery.

    How do I contact them?

  2. Tom Gilboy May 22, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Was just informed that the VA does not cover massage therapy, despite what this article

  3. Rudy May 20, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I believe VA Doctors are more concerned about quick fixes and motivational speeches than dealing with the vets true needs. PAIN RELIEF. Give the vets the medicines needed , so they can have true quality of life when they need it most. You have plenty of ways to check abuse. WHO YOU KIDDING? WE’RE NO KIDS ANYMORE.

    YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED NOT TO PROVIDE THESE “True patriots” who probably indirectly provided your education. You the highest moral of a doctor: COMPASSION.


    Must USMC (ret)

  4. Joseph Lee Powell May 20, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Where can I drive to, in the state of NC, to pick up a current copy of my (RAS) retiree acct statement, in person, with out me having to open a My Pay Acct.

  5. John Hahn May 19, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Anything new on making hypertension (high blood pressure ) a presumptive affliction associated with the exposure to Agent Orange?

  6. William Newell May 19, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    I have struggled with arthritis for many years now. It come to the point of being dibulating. I can no longer fish or play my guitar with out three days of pain and the inability to move My quality of life is miserable and I am unable to do much these days. The two things I love doing the most are no longer possible.

  7. Willie brad baldwin May 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    I have been receiving outstanding service from the VA. With PTSD I get sleeping medicine along with medicine for moods, anxiety and PTSD. I also have migraines nearly every day for about nine to ten hours of my awake time. The VA is treating me with Botox shots in my head and sometimes they work other times l am suffering which brings on more anxiety and depression. The is doing a fair job overall.

  8. Joseph A Hitzel May 19, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I am a 69 year old veteran, Vietnam 1968 – 1969, I recently underwent a Femoral By-Pass in my left leg, in a Hospital outside of the VA, The By-pass was successful but left me with difficulty to dress myself, Bathe, cook my meals and take my medications, including, Two types of insulin three times a day, I am 100% disabled and get compensated from the VA. I applied for Aid & Assist because I have difficulty remembering to take my medications, but my wife (God Bless her) takes very close care of all of this, Type and times to take them, Without her I would be lost, The VA denied my request for Aid & Assist, Said not enough evidence, My visiting nurse wrote a letter stating that I would need assistance when her job was done, Changing dressings and replacing filters on my Wound Vac for six weeks. It was bad enough being spat on and called baby killers when we returned from Nam, But still being pushed aside. I am a proud man and would do it all over again if I was needed. This government ought to be ashamed!!!

  9. JOHN AMBROSE May 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

    For bad cases..the VA only gives you a TENS unit, and tramadol..I have a back brace too……my pain needs much more, the stingy VA and their bottom of the barrel doctors limit how much they help you. They are sadists.The doctors are mere office boys that follow management, nomatter how useless……or they are fired. Cortisone shots last 14 days.

    • Leon Suchorski May 20, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      LMAO. My shot lasted all of THREE DAYS.

  10. Neil Allen McElroy May 19, 2017 at 10:33 am

    The VA put a chairlift in for me and it was a 250 lb limet chair and​ I weigh 350 lb when I started having trouble with the chair because it was to light weight they just came and took it out and now I have nothing like​ I was to begin to begin with​ if I would have had the adatude that the VA​ has when I got drafted I just wouldn’t have gone

  11. Albert G Weiland May 19, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Call I have pancreatic cancer. At the moment I have no symptoms or no exceptional pains. In the future I anticipate the need for pain medication and it will be extremely expensive unless I am able to purchase this through the VA. I am and an Active member of the VA prescription program now but I anticipate pain prescriptions from my oncologist in the future. can I simply present those pain prescriptions to my VA doctor?

    • Joseph A Hitzel May 19, 2017 at 11:59 am

      NO, They won’t fill them for you, I tried to no avail.

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